Over the weekend, I picked Venus grapes – as I’ve already blogged about – but then realized I had a conflict that meant I really wasn’t going to be able to start primary ferment; the timing was bad for racking to secondary. But, having at this point gotten into the mood to do something, I started looking at possibilities. Ideally, I needed a ferment that would only have a primary fermentation cycle. In retrospect, a mead would have worked…
Most wines were out with that stipulation. Even some beers were out (I especially have my eye on a barley wine recipe in Palmer’s How to Brew). But many beers recipes do fit the timing well, and one grabbed my attention. Long story short, I selected “Vagabond Gingered Ale” from Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.
Now, I originally started toying with beer in the process of making braggot, and it had been an all grain recipe. And since then, I have not done a recipe (beer or braggot) that was not all-grain, or at least that did not give options for the all-grain version, which I then used. This recipe interested me enough to bite the bullet and do an extract brew. It helped that I already had ginger on hand in my refrigerator.
I had to make a run to my local brew supply shop, from which I gathered the necessary specialty grains, the bittering and finishing hops, yeast and the extract malt. Turns out the dark malt extract syrup was not available, as they had sold out over the weekend. I settled for dark dry malt extract, which was available. Hops were slightly different in AA (par for the course, really). No big deal – I’m actually happy with a little less hoppiness.
All that was yesterday, and this evening I got right to brewing. Per the recipe, I started by putting 1.5 gallons of water on the stove and heating it to just above 160°F. I heated it a bit too much, and had to let it cool a bit, but once I was just over 160°F again, I added the grain bag filled with 0.75 pounds of crystal malt (120) and 0.5 pounds of chocolate malt). I held the temp at 150-160°F for 30 minutes, as the recipe required.
While the grains mashed, I grated just under 4 ounces of ginger. I peeled it, though the recipe didn’t give that specific detail. I added the dry dark malt extract, 5.5 pounds worth, which gave me a moment’s pause as the recipe called for Munsons dark malt extract syrup, and called for 6.6 pounds of it. In the end, all seems right with the world. To this I also added the grated ginger and the remaining half gallon of water. Being my first time using malt extract, and especially the powdered stuff, I was not prepared for the amount of gluey clumping it did at first. That quickly resolved as the wort heated.
Unfortunately, I was a little impatient with the pace of getting it to boiling, so I put a lid on the pan. Walking away for a moment was a big mistake, and I rushed back to the stove as it foamed over. I didn’t lose much, though I did have some nasty cleanup once the brewing was done. But, with it now finally boiling, I added the bittering hops. The recipe called for 2 ounces of Cascade, at 10 HBU. The hops at Grape and Grains were 7.1 AA, and rather than adjust the quantity up to account for the lower rating, I just kept the specified 2 ounces.
Per the recipe, I boiled this mix for 60 minutes. In the last minute of boiling, I added the Willamette hops (1 ounce at 5.3 AA). Then it was to the bathtub where I had prepared an ice bath, heeding the suggestion of some work colleagues. Very good move, as the temperature reduced much more quickly than my past attempts – from boiling to 80°F in about 20 minutes.
I then strained this into my fermentation bucket to remove the bulk of hops and grated ginger, “sparging” with 2 gallons of chilled water I had pre-added to the refrigerator to chill. I was surprised at the difficulty I had using a nylon bag (like I would use for grain or fruit) in a strainer. The hops, proteins and ginger turned into a paste that did not want to let the liquid through! Eventually I just used the strainer, which was not much better, but enough. Exercising patience, I methodically finished the task.
I then added water to bring the total to 5G. In total, I added the 2 gallons of chilled water and another 1 2/3 gallons of room temp. All distilled, as I still find the house water rather repulsive. At this point, with everything ready, and even at an acceptable temperature, I noticed that the yeast package (America Ale 1056 from Wyeast) required a 3 hour rest after puncturing the inner nutrient package before adding to the brew. Oops.
So, I punctured and shook, and set it to swell for the three hours. I cleaned up and had a pizza. I watched a movie. Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I poured (using a funnel) the wort into a sanitized carboy, after testing SG. It measured at 1.054, which was the upper end of the recipe’s “expected” value for original gravity. Which is good, considering I lost some in the foam-over, and was iffy about the amount of dry versus syrup.
Three hours later, I poured the swelled yeast package into the carboy, and walked away for the evening. Overall, not bad for my first extract recipe.